Inflammatory Markers (White Blood Cell Count) Test Fact Sheet

Inflammatory markers such as elevated white blood cell count are important screening tools to assess internal health. Certain health conditions cause an immune system response, which often increases the number of white blood cells in the body. Some conditions may also reduce the number of circulating white blood cells (WBC). Therefore, getting an accurate count of a person’s cells gives doctors a clue to whether something is wrong, and narrows down possible causes.

Elevated inflammatory markers may also indicate a higher risk for disability and premature death. Some lifestyle changes, such as increasing exercise and lowering cholesterol, may help reduce inflammation and lower risk of certain conditions.

Overview of the Test

A high white blood cell count indicates unhealthy inflammation in the body. This test is often included in a complete blood count test, which provides doctors with important information. A complete blood count screens for many diseases and indicates a possible infection or inflammation. Elevated white blood cells could suggest that a person has conditions such as immune disorders, allergies, leukemia, or other health problems.

Doctors also use blood cell counts to monitor how a disease progresses and how well a person is responding to treatment. Cancer treatments, including chemo(therapy) and radiation, are sometimes monitored with white blood cell counts.

How is it Done?

A white blood cell count or complete blood cell test requires a simple blood test. A doctor typically takes blood from a vein in the arm after disinfecting the area. An elastic band goes around the bicep to make the veins swell, which makes it easier to insert the needle and draw blood. The blood goes into an airtight container, which is then sent to a laboratory for testing. The band comes off and a small plaster goes on the insertion site.

The laboratory examines the blood sample and measures cell counts. A normal range for white blood cells is 4,500 to 10,000 cells per cubic ml of blood.

Who does it?

Health care professionals.

When and How Often?

A white blood cell count may be ordered when a person displays signs and symptoms of inflammation or a possible infection. These signs and symptoms may include body aches, fever, headache, and chills.

Doctors may order the test when immune deficiencies and blood and autoimmune disorders are suspected. The white blood cell count test is sometimes used for monitoring people who are known to have conditions affecting white blood cells.

Cost

A white blood cell count test may cost around $17 Australian. The white blood cell count is almost always included in a complete blood test, which costs around $25 to $55 US.

Issues

A white blood count is a useful screening tool for inflammation and diseases, but it does not clearly identify the underlying cause of an abnormal count. Doctors may order additional tests to diagnose a condition.

Having blood drawn is generally not painful, but people may experience a stinging or throbbing feeling. Occasionally, someone experiences moderate pain. In rare instances, people may faint, become infected at the draw site or experience excessive bleeding.

References

Last reviewed 26/Feb/2014

 

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Whilst wielding a couple of dumbbells in a gym class in 2003, Kate experienced an epiphany around the lack of accepted best practice guidelines when it came to staying well and avoiding disease. Kate realized that she had no chance of slowing her own aging process unless she became better educated about her options.
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